One of my mentors, Bob Hayes, spent thirty-five years raising a family and planting churches in Ghana. The local church in which I was raised supported him. When he visited our church, he would sometimes stay at our home and, as a young boy, I was drawn to him by his loving, joyful, and serving spirit. By God’s kindness, he and I became friends upon his retirement from mission work (though he would never retire from passionate ministry).
I used to meet with Bob early morning and we would talk and pray together. Those early hours were precious and life-impacting. I knew I was sitting at the feet of a godly man, and one proof was his acknowledgement that his feet were as “clay” as were mine. Humility and holiness are a rare combination. I’m so faithful for God’s gift of that mentorship.
Bob told me that, when he lived in Ghana, he would begin each day with a big cup of coffee, his Bible, and a volume of good theology—usually a book by a Puritan author. He was my first serious introduction to a Calvinist (though he used to half-jokingly tell me to keep that a secret!).
Bob told me how, in Ghana, he would often sit under a tree in his village and read and pray and study before beginning his day. He often exhorted me of the necessity of spending time alone with God each day. Perhaps his most memorable counsel to me was, “Doug, we minister out of overflow. Don’t neglect feeding your own soul.” Over the past three decades I have thought of and quoted this counsel hundreds, if not thousands, of times. And more so, I have sought to practice it. As I am doing this week.
I have cleared my schedule this week of some regular ministry because, to be honest, I need to “refuel.” I need to fill up so that I can follow Bob’s advice. But don’t take Bob’s word for it: Listen to Jesus.
After many days of intensive, and fruitful and exciting ministry, Jesus knew the disciples needed a break. They need to be refreshed and renewed. They needed to be “re-filled.” Therefore Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves … and rest a while” (Mark 6:30–31). In other words, they needed a big cup of coffee and to spend some quality time just “sitting under a tree” being replenished for what lay ahead. It has often been quipped, “If you don’t come apart [as the KJV puts it), you will come apart.” Think about that. I have, and so, this week, I have “come apart” to drink lots of coffee, to read lots of theology, and to spend more time with the Lord. I’ve read nearly three books so far I’m excited about delving into a couple more. I can almost feel the needle on my ministry gauge climbing. My aim is to come away from these days in better condition to minister to my family and to my church family. But the need to “come apart” is not reserved for elders and vocational pastors. It is the need of every Christian.
The last four months have been emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually taxing for our congregation. The likelihood is that many of you are sensing that you are “coming apart” and so let me encourage you to “come apart and rest a while.” I know that we cannot yet go away for a holiday but, if we are creative, we can find ways to take a break, relax, reflect, read, and rest. (I confess: I took a fifteen minute nap in my office this afternoon!) If people in heaven see what we are doing on earth, I think Bob smiled as I snoozed and thought, “Doug is still following my advice.” I plan to follow it tomorrow as well.
Brothers and sisters, in some way, take a break. Come apart for a while and be refilled. Each of us needs each of us to do so, for each of us needs to minister from overflow.
Filling up with and for you,